James Forsyth

Can the Tories become a mass membership party again?

Can the Tories become a mass membership party again?
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In the average Tory seat, only around 0.5% of Tory voters are Tory members. Grants Shapps, the Tory chairman, wants to change this. He’s written to every Tory MP asking them to take charge of a push in their seat to raise this percentage to 3. If this drive succeeds, Tory membership would rise to 800,000 plus.

Opinion among Tory MPs on this move is divided. Some think that the era of the mass membership political party is over. Others, though, argue that increasing membership is doable—even if Shapps target is a tad too ambitious. There is also the issue of how the Tories can increase their presence in areas which they have been absent from for t0o long.

At the moment, only two Tory members have associations which pass the Shapps’ size test. One of them is Geoffrey Clifton Brown. The other is someone who has a distinct advantage when it comes to recruiting people to his association, David Cameron.

Update: A senior Tory says that there are actually more than a dozen assoications which pass the 3% mark